*Note: This is my longest post to date.
I would really appreciate if you read the whole thing.
Thanks in advance for your time.
Here is a song to play while you read.
.........................................................................................................................As some of you know, I went to Florida this weekend for a wedding.
The wedding was in every way beautiful. Straight out of a magazine.
Tuesday, March 1st arrived with my time to come back to Chicago.
I woke up expecting a typical last day in Florida.
As the day progressed, I experienced just the opposite.
I will never forget Tuesday, March 1, 2011.
Let me explain:
So I get to the airport at 7pm thinking I have just enough time to check in and wait a while before my 8:05pm flight. Well, it just so happens that Southwest Airlines decided to make a huge change to their rewards program this same Tuesday. This upgrade caused their online system to crash. They also had what they describe as an unrelated issue with the systems in many big airports, including Fort Lauderdale. Because of all this, they had to do everything manually. The problem to me wasn't this system crash and unbelievable inconvenience. I had a major issue with how people were being treated. It was just not ok.You can read more about it here.
So I finally get my hand written boarding pass and go towards security. I end up standing in the same spot in the security line for about 40 min. During this time they have those passengers with printed boarding passes from home go through. However, those with handwritten passes, like me, had to stay put till they could figure out what to do with us. So from my understanding, they pretty much had no idea who was supposed to be on what flight and where the planes were. The system was completely down. We just stood there. Luckily, I am a social person, otherwise I may have gone mad. So I start talking to all the people around me and come to the conclusion that most of us are supposed to be on the same flight. What I don't understand is why they would allow those with the printed boarding passes through. They ended up boarding flights and having them leave without multiple passengers with hand written passes. They were stuck. Some with no place to go. From what they were saying they were not going to reimburse or provide hotel. It was messed up. Thankfully, they announced that they could go ahead and continue with security. They also let us know that they would be holding the flights to Chicago for us.
This is when I met Barb. After showing my ID and what looked like a joke boarding pass, I was instructed to go to the line farthest right. Behind me was a woman who I later found out was named Barb. So, because I'm Evie, I started talking to her. In minutes I was speechless, tearful, and incredibly saddened all at once. Barb started to explain her day to me. Earlier, this very same day, Barb was in Chicago. She was with her mother in the hospital while she was having surgery. Her mother was moved and was now in recovery. The doctor said she was doing very well and should be fine and able to go home the next day. Because Barb has kids and husband at home who needed her and because she knew her mother would be going home the next day, she got on the 12pm flight back to Florida. Moments after landing in Florida, she received multiple messages saying that she needed to get on the first flight back because her mother was about to die.
At this point. I couldn't breath and tried with everything in my to hold back the tears.
This can't be happening. This is not fair. This isn't real. Why???
All of these thoughts ran through my mind as I'm sure they ran through hers.
3 hours ago she is fine and ready to go home.
3 hours later a priest is calling about last rights.
As you can imagine, if today was a bad day for anyone in this airport, it was Barb.
I found myself getting angry and frustrated with passengers who were complaining about getting home 2 hrs late. Passengers complaining about things that were in every way less significant than what Barb was going through at this very moment. I wished so badly that someone somehow would get her to Chicago as soon as possible in some private jet or helicopter. Whatever it would take to get back to that hospital and see her mother.
Because all of these things happened with the system being down, they were doing security very thoroughly. Pat downs that seemed incredibly inappropriate and bag checks that went through every single item in depth. When it was my turn to have my bag checked, they ran the swab through my bag and put it in this machine that checked for any explosives.
You won't believe what happened next.
That's right. Something, somewhere in my bag, made the alarm go off.
So here I am totally clueless as to what is going on, staring at this machine that is blinking "EXPLOSIVES" in red. Because they aren't used to doing things manually, the man checking my bag freaked out. They were all so young. None of them were around when they checked bags like this. No one knew what to do. You would think, it being 2011 and all, that they would have a pretty good plan B if anything like this were to happen. Well they didn't. Luckily, there was a man there whose name I don't remember. Older. He looked through my bag and mentioned that "sometimes the machine does this" then sent me on my way. Well, by this time, I was the last one to board. I get to the gate I was assigned and try to speak to the man to let me on the plane and he is on the phone totally disregarding my existence. Like I said, these employees were rude in every way. Whether they spoke to you or acted like you were a wall, they managed to perfectly define rude. So he finally get's off the phone and asks me "what I want". Well, sir, I want to get on that plane. He looks at my ticket and says my plane isn't leaving yet. I said well, where are all the people who I was supposed to be flying with?
Remember? I met them earlier when we were waiting.
We all confirmed we bought tickets for the same flight.
To add to the complications of the day, I find out that I have been incorrectly placed on another flight. All the people I had seen earlier were boarded on their plane and ready to go home. I turned around and looked at the group waiting in their seats. I knew no one. Usually, I wouldn't mind because I never know anyone I'm flying with, but this was different. I was actually looking forward to flying with all those people I talked to earlier..
Then I saw her.
I immediately re-played everything she had told me 15 minutes prior.
I wanted to cry again, but knew I couldn't.
Why would a stranger cry over some person she doesn't even know?
I ask her how she is doing and she updates me on what is going on, repeatedly saying she just wants to be there already. I listen but have no words to give for comfort. My mouth does the same thing it did earlier. It just hangs there. Open and wordless. "It's just not supposed to be like this". I keep hearing those words replay in my head.
An announcer comes on (the rude one I tried to talk to from before) and lets us know that because of weather, they are going to have to delay the flight even more. Barb, having been there just that morning, assures us that this information is totally incorrect because this afternoon when she left "it was a beautiful day". Sure enough about 10 minutes later, that same rude man gets on the speaker and announces that it was actually because everything is so backed up in Chicago and then let us know that the delay was extended to 40 min.
Really? Weather? Is that the best you could do to try and cover up the fact that you guys are still at fault?
Barb's face said it all. I felt like I was feeling everything she was thinking.
No one said anything.
I went to call Ruben to let him know what was going on, when suddenly the rude guy gets back on and tells us that we can actually start boarding now. I hung up immediately and got in line to board the plane.
Being one of the last of only 30 people to board this flight, I was able to see everyone as I headed to my usual seat in the back of the plane. I saw Barb in a row alone and decided to continue to the back, thinking that she would probably want be alone. I asked her how she was doing and she said she would be ok, and that she was going to try to fall asleep. I smiled, said ok, and went to a seat 3 rows from the back.
On my way to my seat I saw another woman who had heard Barb's story had made her way to the back as well. I told her how I was feeling and she agreed that she could not believe it. She said that she told Barb she would be praying for her. I was pleased to hear that I wasn't alone and found comfort in the now 2 people of this 30 praying for our new friend Barb.
As soon as I sat down, I decided I had to sleep the whole flight. For some reason Barb's story wouldn't stop running through my head. The plane took off and I switched between all three seats in my row to try to find a comfortable place to fall asleep. It was useless. I moved around as if ants were all over me. I could not sit still for a second. My mind was racing. I told myself to just try and read, but couldn't do that either. Then, I made a plan. I decided I had to talk to Barb.
Seeing as how I am literally 3 rows away from the bathroom in the back of the plane, it would have definitely been weird for me to walk all the way in front of the plane to use the restroom. Regardless, as soon as the seatbelt sign went off, I waited for someone to go to the bathroom behind me and I got up and went forward. I used the restroom in the front of the plane and then headed back to the aisle being careful to look to my left because I remembered that's where she would be.
I spotted her. She has obviously been crying. My heart broke.
I asked her how she was holding up.
I then immediately felt stupid and thought to myself "How do you think she's holding up, Evie? Her mom is dying.."
She held up her little cup of wine, smiled, and said she was going to be ok.
I asked her if I could sit with her.
She agreed, but you could tell she was apprehensive.
I am, of course, a complete stranger..
I sat down, and before we knew it, 3 hrs later, they were announcing that we are beginning to descend into Chicago. In this 3 hours I heard the in's and out's of Barb's past 2 years. I think she noticed at some points that I was trying desperately to pretend I wasn't so incredibly affected by her story.
This can't be happening. This is not fair. This isn't real. Why???
These thoughts ran through my head all over again, but this time it meant more.
I was attached. I am attached.
I am hurt and hurting for her and all that her family has gone through in these past 2 years.
I told her I was and will be praying for her multiple times throughout our conversation.
I ended our time together asking if I could hug her. She said yes.
I squeezed that woman with all I had. I didn't want to let go.
I wanted to tell her that everything was going to be ok,
but she and I both knew I couldn't.
She thanked me for keeping her mind off of things and smiled.
She has a really sweet, genuine smile that reminds me so much of my mom's.
I went back to my seat before they turned the seatbelt sign back on and prayed and cried and prayed harder. When we finally landed I looked for her, but she was no where to be found. I worried and then told myself to stop it. I went to baggage claim and secretly looked in every direction for her, but still nothing. Then, out of nowhere, she walked towards me. She was waiting for her bags too. We talked a little and then the woman in the back of the plane found her way to us too. Barb said nothing of her mother and both of us were to scared to ask. The last thing we knew is that they were trying to stabilize her before doing an emergency surgery to try and save her.
We got our bags all one right after the other, and then walked out together to wait for our rides. We talked about the weather, where we live, and how far the drives will be. Nothing too serious. Everything in me wanted to ask if she had heard anything, but I knew it would hurt too bad.
I saw Ruben pulling up and told them he was here. I hugged both of them goodbye. Not any of those sissy hugs either. I gave them real, I love you kinda hugs. They reciprocated. Then I told them how it's not every day you hug the people you just flew with. We laughed, and I left.
I broke down as soon as I got in the car. Let's just say Ruben was a little confused.
Why is this woman affecting me so much?
Why is her story imprinted in my brain?
Why do I feel so connected to her?
I still don't know the answers to these questions.
I still have no idea if her mom made it.
I never will.
The only thing I know is her name.
Her story really touched me.
I wanted to share it with you all so that I could ask you to do something with me.
I feel like I know so much and yet so little.
What I do know is what I shared in this post.
Her name is Barb. Her mother's name is Philis.
I ask that you join with me in prayer for Philis, Barb, and their family.
Thanks for your time, and thanks in advance for your prayer.